A couple weeks back, myself and a few of the authors you see sneaking around this site had a casual dinner over at Proof in Penn Quarter. It’s a newer restaurant – actually, more like a very upscale “wine bar” – and it was suggested as an alternative to the usual pub meetings we normally have.
Their website proclaims the restaurant is “a Penn Quarter dining destination that exudes both contemporary chic and rustic warmth.” I’ll say this – they completely lived up to that billing.
While there’s some seriously good (and expensive) food on the menu, by far the most popular choices of patrons is their various charcuterie and cheese boards. Oh, and the bazillion bottles of wine scattered around. Just in case you weren’t sure what exactly they excelled in.
We splurged as a group and ordered the Chef’s Full Charcuterie board along with a six cheese board to accompany it. Rather than select the cheeses, we asked our extremely helpful server – Anna – to pick for us. (She also helped some of us select a glass of wine – and her suggestions were excellent!)
Within fifteen minutes, two massive boards were placed in front of us. On the Chef’s charcuterie, we had Jamon Serrano, Toscana, Proscuitto San Daniele, Speck, Bresaola, Gentile, Finocchioana, Cacciatore, Coppa and Pate Campagne. And no, I couldn’t tell you which was what nor how each tasted specifically. All I know is that every single thing on that board was a unique and wonderful experience by themselves.
And then came the cheese board. Loaded with four types of cow (Pleasant Ridge, St. Pat, Bethmale and Crater Lake Blue), Pecorino Ginepro sheep and Cana de Cabra goat cheeses, it was complete taste bud overload. Silence ensued as we all fought for various combinations to try; I couldn’t tell what was what, but all I know is that every bite was fantastic. (I asked our server to write down all these wonderful meats and cheeses, because none of us could keep any of it straight. Anna, thank you for following up with that request!)
While we lost about half our number through the course of dinner due to other various engagements, we knew we had to stick around for dessert. I mean, if a meal is that good…
So with some more prompting of our gracious server, we loaded up on sticky toffee pudding, a root beer float (with cookie!), some chocolate bundt cake and a strawberry shortcake.
Yeah, none of it lasted long.
Aside from the excellent food from Executive Chef Haidar Karoum’s menu, Proof has great ambience. Stacked with a complementary mix of brick, leather and polished woods, the softer European lighting keeps things close and personal, with little feel of being stacked into seats and violating personal space. The waitstaff was unobtrusive – they were there right when you needed them, but utterly invisible when you didn’t. Despite our group’s clogging up the bar area before we were seated, everyone was pleasant and didn’t seem put out by our sprawl. The customer base was a mix; I spotted a few Hill interns (obvious!), some business people from the Penn Quarter area, and a few casually dressed tourists. The place was definitely packed, even for a Tuesday, and the bar area was brisk.
I won’t even attempt going into the wine selections – they’ve got 16 whites and 16 reds available by the glass alone. And for you bottle buffs, they’ve got access to over 1,000 different bottlings.
Proof is well worth a trip, even for one of the smaller charcuterie. While you could obviously stop by before a play at Harman Hall, Woolley Mammoth or Lansburgh (to ‘get into the mood’), it’s also perfectly suited as an after-work relaxer or a quick night-in-DC apertif. Just make sure you make reservations for a Friday or Saturday night, because they’re just as busy as the other restaurants in Penn Quarter.
I’d close with a “bottoms up” cliche, but honestly, with a place like this? How gauche.
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